When my younger nephew was a toddler, he would often get frustrated when trying to master a new skill. Like any well-intentioned aunt, I would provide verbal encouragement but refrain from hands-on intervention to encourage solo problem solving.
On more than one occasion, as I was ready to lean in and take over, my nephew would wave me off, announcing “Dobyself” quite emphatically. This sweet verbal nugget has stayed with me for decades, becoming a gentle refrain with family and friends.
The concept resurfaced frequently during the COVID-19 pandemic as circumstances forced all of us to “dobyself” on a daily basis. Overnight, we were transformed into a nation of MacGyvers, tapping into our skills of improvisation and determination. My biggest personal dobyself triumph was activating and transferring all contacts, settings and data to my new cell phone after my carrier said no, it really didn’t want to help me in person.
But there are some things we should not dobyself and, instead, rely on counsel from the experts. Safely returning to the office is one of them.
I plan to spend a day or two in our office this week after officially reopening Sabo PR for in-person work last Monday. My team and I have been working from our various home offices for the last 13 weeks, heeding Gov. Whitmer’s orders to continue working from home if able.
And we are. Like many professional services firms, we were well-suited for remote work – and we were well-prepared. Each team member has a lap top equipped with a VPN connection to allow safe and secure access to all client files. We had already done research on video conferencing for a client project back in the fall, so it was simple to upgrade our Zoom account.
On the final Thursday before the governor’s Stay Home order, many of the team grabbed their monitors on their way out the door. Closing down may have been emotionally challenging, but from a logistics standpoint, it was easy.
That’s not necessarily the case with the reboot. As Michigan lifts its Stay Home restrictions, many businesses are working through significant changes needed for their workplaces. We’ve supported a lot of clients in communicating these new sanitation and safety protocols, and I have been impressed with how thorough and deliberate their considerations have been.
In creating our safe return playbook, I put any lingering MacGyver instincts aside and tapped into a number of national and local experts, including:
- Health experts: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is having its well-deserved moment. I don’t think there’s another organization in the country quoted as often or as regularly it is these days. And with good reason – the CDC has provided excellent guidance throughout the pandemic on its website, which now features a robust section on returning to the office. While the organization has occasionally caused confusion, such as its sea change on the efficacy of wearing facial coverings, overall it has been a true leader and a clear voice.
- Government leaders: Whether we like it or not, Michigan has had one of the swiftest and strictest response to the coronavirus. While most have chafed under these restrictions, they seem to have done the trick as our infection and death numbers remain low despite loosening restrictions. During the pandemic, our team took turns watching the governor’s press conferences and providing summaries to clients and colleagues, often beating the media to punch with just-in-time information. We’ve also appreciated support from Kent County, which is making hard-to-find personal protective equipment available to small businesses like ours. I truly felt I’d won the lottery when my request for digital thermometer, hand sanitizer, gloves and disposal face coverings was approved a couple of weeks ago.
- Legal experts: Sabo PR is fortunate to be represented by the wonderful legal team at Warner Norcross + Judd LLP. Early on, the firm established a COVID-19 Resource Center, marshaled its many resources and began sharing useful information in the for of client alerts, news articles, blogs and webinars. The firm even put together a very digestible safe return-to-the-workplace video that each of our team must watch before coming back to the office.
- Real estate experts: Our landlord, NAI Wisinski, has done a good job of keeping us informed about building safety, especially the steps it has taken to ensure it’s safe for the team to return to our offices. The organization shared its back-to-the-workplace plan with us in advance of reopening – and, just as importantly, asked SPR and our fellow tenants to provide our own plans.
- Team experts: There’s no one who knows or understands your team better than your team itself. As I began formulating our return-to-the-workplace plan, I had individual and group conversations with our team to better understand their concerns. It was important to me to hear their input and then to craft a response that would be comfortable for all. While not all businesses can have this luxury, if yours allows, be sure to take advantage of it. I’ve empowered each team member to make a personal decision when it comes to returning to office, meeting face-to-face with clients or remaining at home.
Our plan was crafted with one guiding principle in mind: Keeping our team healthy and safe so we can continue to serve clients. Built with input from all the above sources, it was far better – and will be far more effective – than any dobyself version I might have conjured.